Whitecaps captain Jay DeMerit shares his story in new movie, Rise and Shine

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It’s perhaps fitting that the making of Rise & Shine and its subsequent DVD release have shared a similar path to the film’s protagonist.

Like DeMerit, the producers of Rise & Shine started their filmmaking adventure at the absolute bottom of the pile. Nick Lewis is an attorney working in San Diego, California, while Ranko Tutulugdzija is a practising acupuncturist. Hardly New York film school or Hollywood. Both men have been friends with DeMerit since college and, like the protagonist, the two men had an idea and a burning desire to achieve it.

About six months before the 2010 World Cup, I called Ranko and told him we had to make a documentary,” said Nick Lewis. “Ranko and I knew that we had a once in a lifetime opportunity to obtain the footage from Jay’s time in England and the World Cup and we couldn’t let it pass.”

Although with any independent film, an idea is one thing, practicality is another, and the two men, acting as producers, met unexpected challenges.

We were supposed to oversee the process as we had a professional director lined up,” Lewis explained. “Then about two weeks before we were to begin shooting, the director had to drop out. At this point Ranko and I faced a decision -- to direct the film, or let it die.”

The two men continued with their goal, and directed the film themselves, paying the film’s costs as they worked. But with any independent production, funding is notoriously difficult to acquire. The international soccer community has helped finance the film, but fan-funding is where the project really found its legs.

The rights to license footage from the English Premier League and the 2010 World Cup were expensive so we turned to “crowd funding” on a website called kickstarter.com,” said Lewis. “We ended up raising over $223,000, the most ever for an independent film project.”

The film has now been shown in 140 theatres in the U.S. and 55 in the United Kingdom, and has also recently played at a film festival in Berlin. Nick and Ranko are currently involved in promoting the film and trying to secure retail distribution. Rise & Shine is scheduled to be available on iTunes and Netflix in June.

DeMerit's story has been likened by former Watford manager Aidy Boothroyd to that of Rocky Balboa; a true underdog taking everything in his stride while rising to the top. It comes as no surprise that the story has successfully reached its intended audience of young kids and teenagers who are wanting to pursue their goals in life. According to Nick Lewis, each week brings a handful of new emails from players, parents or coaches who have all been inspired by the documentary.

One of the reasons for doing this film,” said DeMerit. “Is that I thought about the thousands and thousands of kids each year in any sport or in any thing that are at a crossroads in their life. If we can inspire one kid to try something new because of this film then that's exactly what it's all about.”


Rise & Shine: the Jay DeMerit Story
 is available through Truth 2 Life Productions. 

Check out an audio interview with Jay DeMerit, where he discusses the film, his story, and any adventures that occurred along the way.

UPDATE: Rise & Shine is now available via iTunes.

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